SECTION 1 / FACILITY DESIGN
Design A Blueprint For Sustainability
Start with an energy-efficient, environmentally-friendly facility.
By Carol Casper
Sustainability in commercial enterprise means economic development that is "ecologically viable now and in the long run," according to the Environmental Protection Agency.
The good news for the warehousing and logistics community is that business processes and investments which are ecologically viable also tend to be economically beneficial, often in the near-term and if not, then certainly in the long run.
Whether it's a matter of energy efficiency, building layout and design, or reuse of packaging wherever possible in manufacturing and distribution, approaches to operations which minimize an enterprise's ecological footprint also tend to provide significant returns on investment.
"Green leads to green," as the website of a leading reusable packaging supplier, ORBIS Corp., Oconomowoc, WI, proclaims. When it comes to environmental sustainability, you can do well by doing good.
The most effective way to build sustainability into an enterprise is to start at the beginning: with the design of energy-efficient, environment-friendly facilities and lean distribution networks.
But even existing buildings can be modified to reduce energy use and there are a host of operational decisions companies can make on a daily basis that will result in less use of resources and lighter demands on the environment, while at the same time improving not just a company's image, but also its bottom line.
"Anyone who's willing to make an investment in energy savings can find significant opportunities with very quick paybacks. It's economical to be green in both the long and short run," points out Mark Lowery, divisional vice president, refrigeration, for Stellar, Jacksonville, FL, an international, integrated firm focused on industrial design, engineering, construction and mechanical systems.
Many green buildings cost no more to build and may cost less than conventional alternatives, because resource-efficient strategies and integrated "green" design features often permit the downsizing of more costly mechanical, electrical, and structural systems, according to a report prepared for the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works by the U.S. Green Building Council.
A nonprofit coalition of more than 3,000 companies and organizations from across the building industry, the USGBC promotes green construction practices and administers the LEED green building certification program, which stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design.
In a pamphlet titled, "Making the Business Case for High-Performance Green Buildings," the USGBC enumerates 10 top reasons companies should "go green" in their facilities:
- In the event that upfront costs are higher, they can be recovered through lower operating costs;
- Integrating green design features lowers ongoing operating costs;
- Better buildings equate to better employee productivity;
- New technologies enhance health and well-being;
- Healthier buildings can reduce liability;
- Tenant costs can be reduced significantly;
- Property value will increase;
- Financial incentive programs are available for green buildings;
- Communities will notice your efforts.
In terms of trade-offs, Brian Hudock, partner with Tompkins Associates, points out that the only issue is the investment companies have to make upfront. They may pay an initial premium for energy efficient systems and materials, but in addition to showing they are good corporate citizens, companies will generally recoup their extra investment through lower energy and/or other operating costs within two to three years.
While cost-savings remains the most compelling argument for energy-efficient systems, people are growing more concerned about the environment and are increasingly motivated by an interest in environmental responsibility as well, adds Andy Saladin, a member of the senior engineering services team at ORBIS.